When it comes to being judged as a parent, it feels like we’ve all been there. At Babble we like to say there’s only one way to parent: yours. We’re starting the #ThisIsParenting campaign to celebrate all the ways you get things done — and end the cycle of parenting judgment.
I’m a strict mom. I know that, and I own it. We all have different parenting styles and expectations of behavior. My expectations tend to be pretty high, and my daughter, Ayva, knows that by now. A couple of years ago, when Ayva was in preschool, she had a habit of having a mini-tantrum whenever it was time to leave.
I get that it’s age appropriate to cry and be upset when you’re a little kid and your mom makes you leave someplace fun. But it’s my job as the mom, to teach the little kid how to process her disappointment in a way that doesn’t include laying down on the floor in the middle of a Target and screaming at the top of her lungs.
After dealing with tantrums for a while, I discovered that at some point they became tools of manipulation. “Mommy will give me whatever I want if I cry uncontrollably in front of all of these people.” Wrong. Once I recognized that the crying only got louder and more outrageous when people started to stare, I knew that I had to start dealing with the tantrum issue head on and in the moment.
So one day, we were leaving a preschool field trip at a local museum where we had participated in a workshop and ate lunch. After lunch, it was time to go, and naturally Ayva started crying. She noticed that other people were looking, so she took it up a notch, throwing her head back, mouth wide open, and howling like it was the end of the world.
I was used to it, so it didn’t bother me at all. I just squatted down to get to her level, looked her in the eyes, and told her to “Stop it right now.” She kept crying. “Ayva,” I said, “stop that hollering right now.”
She and I were working through it. I didn’t expect her to be able to stop crying immediately, but I knew from other experiences that I had to stay calm and firm. At some point, I might have even had to get to the counting stage and take away a privilege. (“Ayva, I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t calm down, no iPad tonight.”)
None of this was new to me or her. What was new, however, were the eyes of the mom who was staring at our interaction. Her gaze was oozing with judgment, and I tried to ignore her as I continued to manage Ayva’s tantrum. Then, she started to walk over to us.
When she got to where we were standing, she didn’t say a word to me, but said to Ayva, “Are you okay?”
Naturally, Ayva, who was starting to calm down, started back up again. The fans had arrived! Her audience was here! The woman then said, “How about I give you another pack of apples to take with you in the car? Would you like that?” Ayva looked at the woman with wet eyes, nodded yes, and followed after her to get her tantrum prize.
I was furious. Not at Ayva, of course, but at this other parent who chose to believe that her way of parenting worked better than mine.
There’s a reason that I didn’t offer Ayva apples or any other kind of bribe to get her to stop crying. I don’t want her to grow up with an expectation of only having to do something difficult if she’s rewarded. The world typically doesn’t work like that, and I’d only be setting her up for disappointment if I chose to discipline her that way.
But you know what? Although that’s the way that I choose to do things with my child, I have no issues with the mom who does offer her child a snack or another prize to leave. If that’s the method that works for their family, who am I to judge?
In fact, if I catch her eye, I’ll give her a knowing look, “I’ve been there, girlfriend. You got this.” As moms, we’re all trying to do everything we can to give our children the best lives possible. Discipline is part of that.
Every family is different. Just like we have our own unique family traditions and rituals, we also have our own methods of discipline. I wish that instead of placing judgment on the way that I disciplined Ayva, the other mom would have shown me a little understanding and empathy. It would have made an uncomfortable situation a little more bearable.
We’re all doing the same thing — trying to raise awesome people. Let’s help each other out whenever we get a chance.
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